Ka'anapali Beach Resort, Maui - Where the World Comes to Play

Ka'anapali Beach

YinYang / Getty Images

Where can you find five major award-winning resort hotels, six condominium resorts, a world class shopping village with over 60 shops and restaurants, an oceanfront beach walk that connects all of the condominiums, hotels and shopping village, two championship golf courses, tennis courts for day or night play and free trolley service within the resort?

The answer is the Ka'anapali Beach Resort on what is widely considered to be the best beach on the best island in the world, the island of Maui, Hawaii.

01 of 07

Ancient Times at Ka'anapali

Ka'anapali Beach Looking Towards the Sheraton Maui Resort
Ron Dahlquist / Getty Images

In ancient times, the rulers of Maui enjoyed Ka'anapali as their royal retreat and playground. They liked the perfect stretch of white sand beach, the gentle waves, the ideal weather, and the broad swath of green that swept up the slopes of the rainbow-laced Kahalawai, the West Maui Mountains.

Maui's "royals" surfed, raced their canoes, feasted at lu'au lasting for weeks, and, where the Ka'anapali Golf Courses now blanket the land, they played ulu maika, a form of lawn bowling using stones.

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02 of 07

A Planned Resort

Ka'anapali Beach Resort, Maui
Greg Vaughn / Getty Images

Today's visitors can enjoy many of the same activities. Ka'anapali was Hawaii's first planned resort and still serves as a model for resorts around the world.

Many of the resorts have undergone major reconstruction in recent years to keep up with the demands of today's traveler. In fact, if you haven't been to Ka'anapali in a few years, you'll hardly recognize some of the properties.

The Ka'anapali Resort properties cover over 1200 acres of land and are carefully landscaped so that in most places you will never sense that you are in the middle of a huge resort area.

Top Vacation Destination

With over 3500 hotel rooms and suites and over 2500 condominium units, Ka'anapali is one of Hawaii's and the world's top vacation destinations.

The hotel resorts are: the Hyatt Regency Resort Maui, the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, the Royal Lahaina Resort, the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa and The Westin Maui Resort & Spa.

The condominium resorts are: Ka'anapali Ali'i, Marriott's Maui Ocean Club, Maui Ka'anapali Villas, Outrigger Maui Eldorado Resort, The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas and The Whaler on Ka'anapali Beach.

The resorts at Ka'anapali feature gourmet dining, lagoons with swans and flamingos, art treasures, vast landscapes and waterscapes with mega-pools, cascades and thrill slides.

Ocean activities include catamaran cruises, outrigger canoes, boogie boarding and surfboarding, aqua bikes, snorkeling and diving, rafting, windsurfing and sail boating.

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03 of 07

World Championship Golf Courses

Kaanapali Golf North Course
Shaneff Carl / Getty Images

Ka'anapali's two championship golf courses are open to all.

The Royal Ka'anapali Course, a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design, opened in 1962 and has tested the skills of professional and amateur golfers. A par-71, 6,700-yard layout, the Royal Course combines wide fairways and undulating greens, making it distinctive, demanding and exciting, hole to hole. With more than 45 years of tournament history, the Royal Course has hosted many of golf’s greatest legends: Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Jan Stephenson and Nancy Lopez.

The Ka'anapali Kai Course is a par-70, 6,400-yard course and boasts an array of strategically-placed bunkers, contoured fairways, and re-shaped and resurfaced greens. The course is a delight to play with its sweeping ocean vistas and places a premium on strategy off the tee, accuracy with approach shots, and a deft touch around the greens. The resort underwent a $13 million renovation in 2005-2006 and was given a 4.5-star rating (out of five) by Golf Digest.

The way the courses are laid out, both duffers and pros get a good game. The only problem is whales. If they're jumping offshore in their fantastic gymnastics, nobody seems to make par. The magnificent vistas of sea and mountains are distracting enough to be considered outright hazards on the links.

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04 of 07

Nightly Cliff Diving Ceremony

Evening Cliff Diving Ceremony at Black Rock
Photo Courtesy of Sheraton Maui Resort

Every evening Ka'anapali honors its history and traditions. At sundown, cliff divers reenact the feat of Maui's revered King Kahekili, who bravely dove from the cliff at Pu'u Keka'a, or Black Rock, into the churning sea, at a time when the spot was considered to be the jumping off place for the soul to enter the nether world.

Tikii torches are lit along the shore as the ancient pahu drums and triton shell horns call the hula dancers and revelers to the beachside luaus at many of the resorts.

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05 of 07

Whalers Village Shopping and Dining

Whalers Village, Ka'anapali Beachh Resort, Maui
John Elk / Getty Images

In the center of the resort is Whalers Village, an open-air, world class shopping complex that also includes a wonderful whaling museum that is free to the public. There are also over 70 shops and restaurants. Many evenings also feature free entertainment.

The two anchor restaurants are: Chef Peter Merriman's Hula Grill and Leilani's On The Beach.

Some of my favorite shops include: Crazy Shirts, Honolua Surf Co., Honolulu Cookie Co., Martin & Macarthur, Maui Divers of Hawaii, Na Hoku, Tori Richard and Tommy Bahama. Of course, you'll also find the ever-present, but always popular ABC Store.

The free-admission Whalers Village Museum tells the story of the heyday of whaling in Lahaina (1825-1860) from the perspective of the seafarers themselves with self-guided audio tours, daily films, scale models, artifacts, photo murals, graphic interpretations, whale tooth ivory objects, and scrimshaw.

Each year Whalers Village hosts the annual Maui Onion Festival and also serves as the finish line for the Maui Marathon.

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06 of 07

Nearby Historic Lahaina Town

Pioneer Inn, Lahaina, Maui
Greg Elms / Getty Images

Ka'anapali is also convenient to the historic whaling town of Lahaina, once capital of the Hawaiian Islands.

Trolley service to and from Lahaina makes several stops at various places throughout the resort area. Lahaina is well known for its vast array of restaurants and shops as well as its cultural and historic center.

I highly recommend that you take a walking tour of historic Lahaina. A free historical walking guide is available at the Lahaina Visitor Center in the old Lahaina Courthouse located between the Banyan Tree and warf.

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07 of 07

Additional Activities

UFO Parasail, Ka'anapali Beach, Maui
Photo by John Fischer

If you still can't find enough to do, Ka'anapali Beach has numerous activities available to you such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling and whale watching with Beach Activities of Maui and Teralani Sailing Adventures and the chance to soar above the ocean for a bird's eye view of the resort with UFO Parasail Maui.

Honoring the Past and Celebrating Aloha

To preserve the unique culture and Maui way of life, some Ka'anapali properties have adopted innovative cultural programs that encourage employees to share their heritage with guests. They do this in large and small ways, such as greeting them with genuine aloha, sharing music and family lore, and in colorful programs during Aloha Festivals, Lei Day and Kamehameha Day, in honor of Hawaii's greatest king.

Even with the amenities that have grown with time, Ka'anapali has retained its core of natural beauty and gracious, royal Hawaiian hospitality - two of the many qualities that made it the choice of kings.

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